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Archive for July, 2004

News Scorecard

Wednesday, July 21st, 2004

A Big One For Us
The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on Thursday at 2PM, on the INDUCE Act. The record label cartel did not want these hearings. The fact that they’re happening at all reflects the enormous amount of opposition among members of the mainstream electronics industry and grassroots efforts like ours and the EFF’s. It’s a big win.

A Small One For Them
Six more schools signed on to give all their students Napster accounts. We’d be suprised if this is more than a short term trend for a couple reasons. First, schools are only signing on when given huge discounts and incentives that probably aren’t sustainable. Second, since students can’t save the songs, burn them to CDs, or put them on mp3 players, schools are finding that filesharing usage doesn’t decline meaning liability doesn’t decline (which from their perspective is the whole point).

A Big One For Us
The merger of Sony Music and BMG is finally moving ahead. This means that we’ll be down to 4 major labels from 5. Some people worry that this means even less music diversity– in fact it’s a symbolic step on the road towards being totally free from the major label homogenization machine. As the majors continue to cut back and merge, more and more opportunities for independent music will open up around the edges.

A Key Trend For Us
Duke University just announced that they’ll give an iPod to all 1,650 members of the upcoming freshman class. This means that they’ve just quadrupled the amount of music that each freshman is able to listen to. iPod-mania is not just about the latest gadgetry– it’s literally redefining the way that our society experiences music, in mostly good ways. Do not underestimate what this will mean for the industry and everyone who cares about music.

So… 3 for us, 1 for them. Not too bad.

It’s been quiet around here because we’ve got some things brewing that we’re very focused on. Stay tuned.

National Barbie-in-a-Blender Day

Monday, July 12th, 2004

A few months ago, we wrote about an Illegal Art show that was happening in Philadelphia. One of the featured artists was Tom Forsythe, whose photographs of Barbie in a blender (and in other curious situations) got himself sued by Mattel. It’s a classic case of a corporation bringing a completely groundless suit just to intimidate someone into stopping something they don’t approve of.

When EMI threatened to sue Downhill Battle if we went ahead with Grey Tuesday, it was the same strategy– they wanted to scare us into canceling the protest even though it was clearly protected by free speech and fair use. The threat didn’t work and they saw that we had lawyers who would take up our case pro bono; Grey Tuesday went ahead, and we never heard from them again.

And the major labels have been using the same technique against families in the filesharing cases for a year– those cases are never getting to trial because regular families can’t afford $80,000 to mount a defense. It’s simply a scare tactic. Almost no one is in a position to mount a defense against a corporate lawsuit, and that means that corporations can trample on the First Amendment every day.

Back to our story: Tom Forsythe was itching to fight for his Barbie photos and he convinced the ACLU to take up his case. They fought it and won easily. Not only that, but a few days ago the court ordered that since Mattel’s lawsuit was so clearly groundless, Mattel must pay the $1.8 million in legal fees that it cost to defend Tom’s case. This is a huge victory which reaffirms free speech and fair use.

The FreeCulture.org crew is now celebrating this win with National Barbie-in-a-Blender Day just announced for July 27. And they’re challenging you to make Barbie art that Mattel will be helpless to stop– just because you have a right to.

Save the iPod Update

Thursday, July 8th, 2004

Savetheipod.com is hugely successful. Since we started at the beginning of last week we’ve sent over 10,000 faxes to senators and representatives about why they should oppose the p2p-killing and hardware-innovation-chilling INDUCE Act. Relative to visitors, over 20% of everyone who came to the page sent a fax, which is amazing for online campaigns like this. Huge thanks to Click-the-Vote for handling faxes and to everyone who helped us spread the word. And the stats for where all the messages went are actually really cool– have a look:

Savetheipod.com Stats

Meanwhile, we hear that the INDUCE Act (one of Congress’s more shameless acronyms, since renamed “Inducing Infringement of Copyright Act” or IICA) has been firmly placed on the slow road. Read this letter from several prominent consumer electronics and internet companies (signatories include Google, Intel, and eBay, and Novell) requesting hearings on the bill. When dozens of leaders in the tech sector ask Congress for something, it usually happens. We’ve heard from two reliable sources that there will definitely be hearings on this thing. That’s good for two reasons. First it means the bill could just get bogged down. Second, it’s another chance for the public to weigh in. 10,000 faxes is a great start. Sometime in the near future, though, we’ll need a repeat performance (maybe with phonecalls this time). Be ready.

For a more comprehensive take on the INDUCE Act / ICCA start reading Copyfight, particularly Ernest Miller’s exhaustive analysis.

Michael Moore and Boycotts

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

There was a flurry of news a couple days back about how tons of people are downloading Fahrenheit 9/11 using bittorrent and how Michael Moore is 100% okay with that. An anti-Michael- Moore website called MooreWatch.org even posted a link to the .torrent file as a taunt. So if you hate Michael Moore and you want him to lose money, if you really want to see the movie but you don’t have the money, or–especially– if you’re not really sure either way, then download the movie and burn it for all of your friends. One of these links should work: 1, 2, 3. (If you don’t have bittorrent yet you’ll have to download it first, here)

And here’s something to think about while you’re watching that status bar:

Conservatives are downloading and watching the movie, while choosing not to support it. It’s a reasonable position: they don’t want their money going to buy TV ads for Fahrenheit 9/11 in late October (“Vote for the other guy… Now on DVD!”). But at the same time refusing to watch the movie would be like sticking their head in the sand. The movie is a political and cultural event, one which, in an important sense, belongs just as much to them as to anyone else.

That is also, we believe, the most healthy approach to major label music. Nobody normal wants to see their money go to fund payola radio or major label lawsuits against families with kids. But to refuse to listen to major label music is just willful ignorance. Abstaining from peer-to-peer downloads or refusing a burned-CD gift from a friend is as absurd as covering your ears and singing the Pledge of Allegiance at full voice when somebody turns on non-indy radio. Of course you’re not going to pay for major label music. That’s a given. But if you totally unplug yourself from mainstream culture, you’ll be in absolutely no position to change it.

When the product is digital and can’t be “used up”, boycotting that product becomes an oddly different thing. You can still get it, as long as you don’t fund it. We’re serious about this.

Hot filesharing film projects.

Tuesday, July 6th, 2004

If you like Movies for Music, there’s some stuff you’ll love coming down the pipe. Over the past few months we’ve been contacted by several filmmakers who want to make a full length documentary about filesharing, the free culture movement, and the future of the music business. Two efforts in particular stand out.

The first is Shift Film, based in Pennsylvania. We got to meet briefly with Dave Walsh from Shift at the freeculture.org meeting / Lessig lecture in Philly last April. They’re serious about this, and right now they’re working hard on getting more support and funding for their very ambitious project. Check out their new website, and their latest press release.

The second is Brett Gaylor, a filmmaker based in Montreal, and his project Basement Tapes. Brett just launched Open Source Cinema, “a film project dedicated to creating movies in ways inspired by the free software and free culture movements.” Check that out along with his previous work, and his post about plans for making Basement Tapes a collaborative project.

Both of these projects are moving fast. If you’d like to be a part of either, check out those sites and contact the filmmakers. Any film that makes the connection between filesharing, the major labels’ corruption, and the looming battle over copyright would be a huge deal for this movement. And there’s certainly a very interesting story that would make a great movie. If you’re in a position to provide financial support to some excellent and important independent films, you should give them both a call.

K10 on copyright and art

Monday, July 5th, 2004

The latest issue of the rather famous design website k10k deals with the clash between copyright and freedom of expression. It’s worth a look.

“Have you ever thought about the concept: Many artists today want to have freedom of expression, but once they create their own art piece, they don’t want others to copy it?”

Check it out.